Monday, 31 August 2009

Quakers love Bishopston Trading Company.

Recently overheard: Two Quaker women talking,

"Bishopston Trading Company is the Harrods for people like us!"

Nowhere was this more evident than at the recent Quaker Yearly Meeting Gathering, held on the campus of York University in early August, for which the company supplied the recycled newspaper conference bags.
Snapped on site during the week were more than forty Bishopston items ranging from women's clothing to men's shirts and jewellery worn by a Young Friend.
This is hardly surprising given that the pioneering Fairtrade company has been run on Quaker business principles since it was formed 25 years ago.

The new Quaker Centre cafe and shop, which will open on 3 October at Friends House in Euston, will be stocking a selection of Bishopston Trading Company items, to take away in specially branded Quaker Centre bags - supplied by Bishopston Trading Company, of course!


Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Don't Forget the Handloom

Having extolled the virtues of powerloom weaving in the last post, I thought I better say something ab0ut the wonders of traditional handloom weaving - just to ensure no-one feels left out. After all, handloom weaving is the principal craft of the K.V.Kuppam area and the quality of the cotton cloth brought back from K.V.Kuppam when the Bishopston-Kuppam link was first formed, was part of the initial impetus for founding the trading company.

Anyone who’s ever worn a Bishopston Trading blouse or shirt knows how breathable, soft and light the handloom cotton cloth is, but few people are aware just how versatile a material it is too. To illustrate this I thought I’d share with you a selection of other products made from the Fairtrade organic cotton cloth that is handwoven by our partners in the village.

1. The Wondercube

Having watched her baby daughter ethusiastically pulling wipes out of their packet, Helen Twigge-Molecey, designed this educational children's toy to be made from lightweight cotton cloth.

2. Fat Quarters - Quilting Packs
Colour co-ordinated packs of fabric, designed specially for avid quilters.

3. Zip-Safe Bags

Multi-purpose storage bags: cash, keys, medication, mobiles - all those small but essential things that have a habit of vanishing at the crucial moment.
4. Tartan Ties

In fact a whole range of cotton items all in classic Gordon Tartan and all from cloth woven in South India.

5. Student Fashion

Well this isn't much of a leap from the handloom cotton clothing I mentioned at the beginning of this post, except that these garments were designed and made by students at Filton College Bristol. It just shows what a versatile and useable fabric handloom cotton is, when it can be crafted into beautiful garments by students, professionals and hobbyists alike.

Finally, here's an image of the handloom cloth in production. At the weaver's feet are two pedals which she presses alternately to raise and lower consecutive warp threads. The cords attached to the top of the frame are pulled in time with the pedal-pushes, this sends the shuttle shooting back and forth between the warp threads, creating the weft. The weavers who produce the handloom cloth for Bishopston Trading Co and our partners are organised into Self-Help Groups, these operate like small co-operatives: they are democratically run and the profits are shared amongst the members.

For more information visit these pages of our website:

K.V.Kuppam and How our clothes are made

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Powerloom Weaving Arrives in K.V.Kuppam

The inspiration behind Bishopston Trading Company was a simple assertion made by one of the villagers of K.V.Kuppam, that what they wanted was work not charity. This, coupled with the long-standing tradition of high-quality handloom cotton weaving in the area, led to the founding of the company as a trading partnership. We now work with five groups of handloom weavers in the surrounding villages, they produce the Fairtrade organic cotton cloth that is used in the majority of our clothing.

But lightweight cotton clothing, no matter how beautiful and breathable it may be, is not always ideal for these northern climes. So we complement our handloom range with Fairtrade organic cotton velvet, babycord, denim and calico. And from this month the weaving of the denim and calico will be undertaken by a new powerloom weaving society in K.V.Kuppam. The looms have been purchased, the weavers are being trained, and very shortly the clacking of electric powerlooms will be heard amongst the buzzing and singing of the local fauna and the rhythmic whirring of the sewing machines in the Tailoring Societies.

The Powerloom Weaving Society will be democratically organised as the other weaving and tailoring groups are. Not only will it enable us to offer a greater range of powerloom cloth and have greater control over the quality of the finished product, it will also allow us to offer this cloth by the metre to other designers, craftworkers and businesses, just as we currently do with our handloom. As Fair Trade goes from strength to strength, we are looking forward to supplying furnishing quality fabric to haberdasheries and department stores: Fairtrade organic cotton will no longer only be something we wear and sleep between, we will also be relaxing on it, drawing and opening it, sitting on it and lounging over it.